SSFL 2022: Championship matches postponed on eve of kickoff due to “logistical and technical constraints”

The Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) executive committee today announced the postponement of Boys Championship Division matches in the North, East, Central and Tobago Zones, barely 24 hours before kickoff on Tuesday 13 September.

The decision will impact 24 schools across Trinidad and Tobago who were preparing to make their first outing in three years, due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Photo: Signal Hill Secondary flanker Javier King (right) runs at Arima North right back Emmanuel Hunte during Big 5 action on the Arima Old Road on 2 November 2019.
(Copyright Daniel Prentice/ CA-Images/ Wired868)

The South Zone will proceed as usual tomorrow with the Point Fortin East, Ste Madelaine, Siparia West Secondary and Fyzabad Anglican secondary schools all in action. There has been no change to the Premier Division, which kicks off on Wednesday 14 September with games at eight venues across the country.

SSFL president Merere Gonzales blamed the late postponement on “logistical and technical constraints”. He did not elaborate.

However, the schools governing body opted to move away from the online registration of players to hard copy forms for this season. In a previous interview, Gonzales said the SSFL’s decision to return to paperwork was due to technical issues with the online registration back in 2019. He said the SSFL aims to return to online registration for the 2023 season.

The schools football body warned teams to get their paperwork done in time for Friday’s games.

Photo: SSFL president Merere Gonzales (right) and Tiger Tanks CEO Denis Latiff before kickoff of the Tiger Tanks Cup at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva on 9 September 2022.
(Copyright Daniel Prentice/ Wired868)

“The deadline for registration of players for the games scheduled for 16 September 2022 is Tuesday 13 September 2022,” stated a release by SSFL general secretary Azaad Khan. “[…] Hard copies of said registration must be delivered to the SSFL office within three days of sending by email. Sorry for any inconvenience which may have been caused.”

The postponed Championship Division matches, according to a SSFL statement, have “now been rescheduled to Monday 17 October 2022”. It creates a future issue for most of the remaining zones.

The SSFL Big Five competition, which determines the three teams who will win promotion to the 2023 Premier Division competition, kicks off on Wednesday 19 October with the second round of matches on Saturday 22 October.

Photo: Moruga Secondary defender Omari Khan (right) tackles Fatima College attacker Jacob Ribeiro during Big 5 action on Mucurapo Road on 29 October 2019.
(Copyright Allan V Crane/ CA-Images/ Wired868)

The South Zone champion team will have five days rest before their first Big Five game. However, the winning teams from the North and Central Zones will finish their Championship season only two days prior to their Big Five opener and now face the prospect of three games in six days.

St Mary’s College and Trinity College Moka are considered the main contenders in the North Zone while Miracle Ministries were edged out of the title race for the Central Zone in 2019.

Tobago champs Signal Hill Secondary and East Zone winners Arima North Secondary are still in their respective divisions, having failed to win promotion in the 2019 Big Five competition.

Signal Hill—or whoever the eventual 2022 Tobago Zone champs happen to be—might face another issue, as the SSFL fixtures suggest that their zonal matches continue until 28 October.

Photo: Signal Hill Secondary supporters cheer on their team during SSFL Premier Division action against Shiva Boys Hindu College in Tobago on 5 October 2016.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/ CA Images/ Wired868)

Apart from the fact that the timing of the rescheduled match means Tobago teams are now being asked to play games on 15, 17, 18 and 22 October, along with Big 5 fixtures on 19 and 22 October.

A SSFL official said the executive committee would address the discrepancy in the Tobago fixtures by tomorrow.

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